I work with a mysterious woman named Amna Alblooshi. She’s a graphic designer for Khalifa University and she makes my written work look so good. I don’t know much about her other than she’s 28, single, and getting her master’s degree in Art History at the Sorbonne here in Abu Dhabi. She works all day at Khalifa, then goes to classes in the evening. Oh, one other thing: she speaks her mind when the men in our office are being ridiculous. And one last minor detail: she’s breathtakingly beautiful.
But Amna is NOT a wallflower. In fact, she’s living proof that Arab women defy whatever stereotype Americans might have of them.
A few months ago, I discovered that Amna was designing a line of t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with skulls and crossbones. I’d inadvertently dressed as a swashbuckler for work and I was laughing at my outfit — vaguely resembling Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Amna actually defended my choice saying that she loved pirates and Johnny Depp before showing me her sketches.
A few weeks ago, Amna said she would be exhibiting her art at the upcoming Comic Con in Dubai. Again, surprising the hell out of me. I decided to ask David if he’d like to go to the event, and he went ballistic with excitement. I told him he could bring two friends, and they went nuts too. I didn’t understand the Comic Con craze, but I was curious about the enthusiasm for the event — and whatever Amna Alblooshi might be doing there.
Yesterday morning, Allan and I drove David, Stephanie and Daanyal to Dubai. The kids were deranged with anticipation. Allan and I were slightly terrified by what might be in store. Crowds. Costumes. Claustrophobia.
We arrived an hour later, and after waiting in three lines, for a total of 45 minutes, we entered the fray.
Comic Con in L.A. or NYC or Vegas may be one thing, but move the party to Dubai and the scene takes on a whole other level of otherworldliness. One doesn’t expect to see folks from the Middle East go nuts for this stuff. But why not? Just because you are Arab or Muslim doesn’t preclude you from fantasy and futurism and whatever else Comic Con represents. I checked my preconceptions at the door and got on with the business of finding Amna Alblooshi with three kooky kids in tow.
David found one of his favorite comics — Andy Suriano, who draws the Samurai Jack series. Stephanie got autographs from anyone with a pen. Daanyal was pretty much apoplectic the whole time. They tried out the new games, bought posters, drank green tea, and even got their pictures taken by a few people. But the crowds were so thick that I couldn’t find Amna anywhere. I couldn’t even locate an exhibitor map. I feared we’d leave without seeing my colleague’s wares. While the boys tested more games, Stephanie and I strolled the artist aisles one last time.
And finally I spied, with my little eye, the beacon of light — and darkness — known as Amna the Ineffable. I would describe her animated characters as sideshow freaks meet female superheros. Delicate and dangerous. Stephanie and I both bought notebooks featuring Amna’s “batcat” ladies.
As divine coincidence would have it, I ran into my pal Adam who runs Cartoon Network in Abu Dhabi while he was scanning the show for new talent. I had the opportunity to introduce Amna to Adam. The two exchanged cards and plans to meet.
Our gang was so over tired that we drove back to Abu Dhabi in gails of laughter. The kind of giggles that turn into tears of utter joy. Turns out Daanyal is an incredible mimic, and Stephanie has the voice of a pop star.
When we got home, I immediately looked up Amna’s website (Here’s a link.) Guess what was lurking there?